Living in the L.A. metro area means making peace with the freeways that criss-cross the landscape like fine webbing, something I've had difficulty doing. In our case, it's the 210, which connects San Bernardino to Pasadena, but also links other freeways that'll get you to Las Vegas or Phoenix.
A busy stretch of road, in other words.
Ah, there's nothing like rolling out of bed in the morning and landing on an entrance ramp. It's right at the end of our subdivision. Good for my husband, who commutes. Bad for me: I race walk. So a morning stroll puts me square in the middle of frantic, light-jumping commuters and pits me against SUVs and semis with only puny 2-lb. weights to defend myself.
Dang, but my manufacturer forgot to include side-impact air bags or a steel frame. Too late to upgrade my model now; I think I've depreciated some in 41 years.
Our house is about 60 yards from the sound wall that supposedly blocks the noise, but only if you're on the ground floor or have double-paned windows. Most nights I can manage to drift off as traffic eases up close to midnight, but then it zooms into full gear just before dawn.
It's worse in Minitaur's room and I sometimes wonder if it contributes to him waking up 5, 6, 7 times a night and needing to be tucked in again (and again).
Of course we were warned when we bought the house that the road would be coming through. The construction was pretty thrilling, I must admit, as they dug under the main road to create the overpass and ramps, and then we witnessed the 210's slow birthing pains as oversized machinery dug, leveled and paved it into existence.
Upland even celebrated with a street fair a few days before the ribbon-cutting. How many times in your life do you get to walk on a freeway? I mean, without having broken down, of course.
We strolled a mile up and back and then hiked up the exit ramp to our house, pausing to admire a display of antique cars and re-fuel our bellies at a food booth. The outing inspired me to write a short story about gasoline prices skyrocketing to the point where people have to abandon their cars and ride bikes or walk everywhere, and all of a sudden we start acting nicer too. It never sold.
The freeway debut provided one of the few fond memories I have of a California superhighway. Otherwise, my hate affair with the automobile remains furiously stoked. If there's a devil, he drives a car, a big-gas guzzling honker.
He smirks when we waste hours each day in traffic. He delights at how much money is sent to prop up Saudi feudalism. He smiles upon scofflaws who add to the coarsening of our society by ignoring traffic laws and running lights. He lets out a lusty "mwa-ha-ha" at those who grow obese in part because they have no opportunity to walk off a few pounds now that our communities are built for the convenience of drivers instead of pedestrians.
I hate driving. I hate losing my husband an extra two hours a day. I hate worrying each time I wave goodbye from the top of our driveway that the next time I see him, he'll have been pulled one piece at a time from the twisted wreckage of his aging, diminutive sports car. When he's late, I don't want the phone to ring. I'm afraid it'll be the county coroner or CHP.
And then I lie awake at night, waiting for the nearby roar of souped-up engines and lousy mufflers to subside just enough for me to fade into a troubled sleep.